Su­per plane nears launch date

The West Australian - - NEWS - Geoffrey Thomas Avi­a­tion Ed­i­tor

Boe­ing has pow­ered up its new­est air­craft, the 777X, which will be ca­pa­ble of fly­ing from Los An­ge­les to Perth as it pre­pares for the su­per jet’s roll­out early next year.

The power-up process en­ables the com­pany to test ev­ery sys­tem on the plane to en­sure that when it is un­veiled, it is fully func­tional.

Boe­ing is coy about an­nounc­ing the roll­out date but in­dus­try sources said it was ex­pected to be mid-Fe­bru­ary.

Boe­ing is build­ing two mod­els of the 777X fam­ily — the 400-seat -9, which will be the first to be un­veiled, and the longer range -8, which can seat 350 pas­sen­gers and has a range ca­pa­bil­ity of more than 17,220 km.

The 777X fea­tures a 3m fold­ing wing-tip. It is this model that Qan­tas and Air New Zealand are eval­u­at­ing, with de­ci­sions ex­pected early next year.

The driv­ing force be­hind the 777X is Emi­rates pres­i­dent Sir Tim Clark, whose air­line is the lead buyer with an or­der for 150.

Sir Tim de­scribes the 777X as “an ab­so­lute peach”.

Key to his en­thu­si­asm is the air­craft’s eco­nomics and greater space — it is 20 per cent more ef­fi­cient per seat than the in­dus­try’s long-time benchmark, the 777-300ER, and its cabin is wider with big­ger win­dows. The 777X com­bines the best fea­tures of the cur­rent 777 with a longer fuse­lage, new en­gine and the com­pos­ite wing de­sign from the Boe­ing 787.

Other air­lines that have or­dered the 777X are Lufthansa, Eti­had Air­ways, Qatar Air­ways, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, Cathay Pa­cific Air­ways and All Nip­pon Air­lines.

Qan­tas’ com­pe­ti­tion, called Pro­ject Sun­rise, also in­cludes the Air­bus A350 and the air­line is de­mand­ing Syd­ney to Lon­don non­stop ca­pa­bil­ity with 300 pas­sen­gers.

Air­bus and Boe­ing said they could meet the air­line’s de­mands or close to it. Qan­tas plans to add un­der­floor bunks to the win­ner of its com­pe­ti­tion be­cause on ul­tra-long-haul flights the air­craft will carry vir­tu­ally no cargo, just pas­sen­gers’ bags. Air New Zealand is go­ing to ac­cel­er­ate its re­design of its in­te­rior of­fer­ing at its Hangar 22 seat­ing pro­ject af­ter it de­cides on ei­ther the 777X or A350 in April.

Air NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Christo­pher Luxon told Air­line Rat­ at the in­au­gu­ral of the air­line’s first ser­vice to Chicago last week that the air­line had been bring­ing cus­tomers through to ex­pe­ri­ence mock-up cabin spa­ces in an at­tempt to learn their think­ing about space, stor­age and pri­vacy.

“We’ve been run­ning cus­tomers through a num­ber of mock­ups that at this stage are quite prim­i­tive and quite con­cep­tual but are giv­ing them a feel about what they want to play back to us around that,” he said.

Pic­ture: Boe­ing

The Boe­ing 777X be­ing worked on at the com­pany’s plant in the US.

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